- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Finding a gem in the rough on a homesite with 1 acres is a rarity in the Washington area these days. Few estates of this size are still available inside the District; fewer still within walking distance of Connecticut Avenue and a Metro station.

The Owl’s Nest, at 3031 Gates Road NW in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Washington, has been sited on its secluded hilltop lot since 1897, watching the surrounding community and the city change.

Now on the market for $3,475,000, this shingle-style country manor offers a prime location and a structurally appealing home. Inside, the property needs some renovation and finishing touches, but the principal elements of the home are in place.

In 1897, Appleton P. Clark Jr., the prominent and prolific Washington architect, designed what he termed a “modern country dwelling” for the property owner, William L. Crounse.

Mr. Clark’s commissions varied, but during the course of his 60-year career, most of his buildings were designed in the classical-revival style popular at the time.

Mr. Crounse, Washington bureau chief for the New York World and a founder of the National Press Club, later used his journalistic and social connections to become a lobbyist on behalf of several trade organizations.

The Owl’s Nest was initially surrounded primarily by small farms — quite a contrast to today’s urban environment.

Historical evidence suggests that the Crounses maintained the home as their primary residence rather than as a traditional country summer home. The home was sited atop a hill for the view and cooling breezes, and it faces west toward Gates Road, where the original stone entrance gate still stands. Similar stone gates are at the other end of the circular drive.

The shingle style, a blend of traditionalism and informality characterized by its use of shingles for both siding and roofing material, often also features homes built on bases of coarse stone.

The Owl’s Nest features a varied roofline, including a stone arch, a stone porte cochere and a stone turret, all covered with a shingle roof of pale green.

Several additions to the home have been built over the years, including a one-story addition to the east of the property in 1912 and a 1950s addition to the rear of the property.

In 2001, the Owl’s Nest was officially designated a historic landmark in the District of Columbia Inventory of Historic Sites.

The stone porte cochere offers protection as guests or residents arrive in inclement weather, and then guests can be welcomed on the stone front porch, which wraps around the house.

A dramatic wood-paneled foyer with hardwood parquet flooring leads under an arched ceiling back to the rear hardwood staircase. A stained-glass window with an owl overlooks the foyer and stairs.

In one corner of the foyer, tucked under the stairs, is a built-in wooden bench facing a brick fireplace.

To the left of the foyer is the formal living room, a gracious double parlor with a wood-beamed coffered ceiling overhead and herringbone-pattern hardwood flooring with contrasting wood inserts underfoot. At the center of this room is a brick fireplace with an unusual mantel created of graduated rows of white-painted brick.

A step-down from the living room leads into the large family room, an addition to the property with windows on three sides overlooking the forest outside. A half-bath is tucked into one corner, along with a curving bar with shelves.

On the opposite side of the foyer is the gracious formal living room, which has hardwood flooring, a chandelier and a corner fireplace. The front window overlooks the front porch, and a deep bay window at the side of the room has a wooden window seat.

At the back of this level, a small S-shaped kitchen, which has functioned primarily as a catering kitchen, includes plenty of cabinets and shelves, plus a sink under a window. This room needs updating but has potential as a kitchen, a main-level laundry room or a home office.

The main level offers the possibility of creating a large country kitchen and family room out of the rear addition to the home and redefining the dining room and living room space, all without major structural changes to the home.

A few steps off the kitchen lead down to the lower level of the home, which is entirely above ground. At one end of this level is a bedroom wing addition with hardwood flooring, two spacious bedrooms with walk-in closets, a large linen closet and a full bath.

A wing under the family room upstairs functioned as the main kitchen when the home was last occupied. Although large enough for plenty of appliances, a center island and a casual dining and seating area, this room requires substantial renovation.

Other nearby rooms include a pantry, a laundry room and utility and storage space. All are above ground with large windows, but each needs renovation with new flooring and fresh paint.

The two upper levels of the home have hardwood flooring, and most rooms have a fireplace. The first of the upper levels includes the master suite, a large bedroom with a fireplace and picture windows on two sides of the room. Adjacent to this room is a dressing room with walls of closets. The attached private bath has been renovated and includes a glass-enclosed corner tub and shower.

This level includes a second full bath with a glass-door shower and a separate tub. Two large bedrooms complete this level, including one with a corner fireplace surrounded by tiles.

The top level of the home features the charming turret room, which has a steeply peaked ceiling and a corner fireplace. The second bedroom on this level, which could also function as a den or home office, has walls of built-in cabinets as well as access to attic storage. The adjacent full bath with a combination tub and shower has been renovated.

Although the indoor spaces may need some work to bring this unique estate into the 21st century, the essential grace of this shingle-style mansion remains appealing.

More info:

Address: 3031 Gates Road NW, Washington, DC 20008

Community: Forest Hills

Age: Built 1897

Price: $3,475,000

Size: About 6,000 finished square feet on 1.5-acre lot

Exterior features: Shingle-style country mansion of stone and cedar shake with circular drive and dramatic stone portico entrance leading to wraparound stone front porch

Interior features: Four above-ground levels with seven bedrooms; four full baths; one half-bath; hardwood flooring on main and upper levels; paneled foyer with parquet floor, fireplace and built-in bench; hardwood stairs with stained-glass window on landing; family room addition with fireplace and half-bath; double-size living room with fireplace and wood-beamed coffered ceiling; formal dining room with chandelier and fireplace; S-shaped kitchen; lowest level includes kitchen, laundry and utility rooms, plus bedroom wing with two bedrooms and one full bath; upper level with two bedrooms sharing a full bath, plus master suite with dressing room and closets, plus private bath; top level with turret bedroom with fireplace, full bath, and additional bedroom with built-in cabinets and access to attic storage

Amenities: Seven fireplaces; secluded hilltop setting placed back from the street with garden and wooded areas for a private forest; level lot could accommodate a swimming pool or tennis court.

Close by: Within walking distance of Connecticut Avenue and Rock Creek Park; easy access to downtown Washington or the Beltway

Open house: By appointment

Contact: Debbie Cohen of Long & Foster Real Estate at 202/288-9939

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